Gender and the Workplace
The problem of workplace gender disparities is one that seemingly refuses to go away. This despite continued efforts and educationists who significantly try to improve female enrollment in education. In a way, most feminists argue that this lack of progress is in part as a result of glass ceilings, organizational structure (Acker, 1990), ceilings coming about due to a lack of sufficient promotion and advancement amongst female managers as captured by Cohen and Huffman (2007), and poor attitudes on the part of the women themselves, who somehow believe that they are to blame for the situations they find themselves in (Webber & Williams 2008).
Acker (1990) argues that the very structure of organizations, serves to discriminate against women, as it seemingly puts them at a significant disadvantage. Acker proceeds to posit that although organizations usually put structures and job descriptions in place meant for the universal worker “This worker is actually a man” (139). This prevailing situation is therefore, responsible for the marginalization of women, hence the maintenance of the status quo. Acker in essence, seems to be claiming that the prevailing situation in most work places serve as impediments to the growth of women in the work place, as in most cases, the work places are designed to suit the universal worker: a man. I do agree with these assertions, as to date, certain work places are still considered the preserve of the male gender; for instance law enforcement and the armed forces. Despite the best efforts of feminists and most women, the odds are significantly already stacked against the female gender curtailing their chances of career development.
Webber and Williams (2008) though agreeing with Acker to an extent, seem to suggest that the problem is more attitudinal than physical. They argue that although in most cases the environments created by organizations curtail the development of the female gender, the victims usually apportion the blame to the wrong quarters. Women workers mostly blame themselves for their predicament, instead believing that their choices are responsible for where they find themselves, absolving the organizations from blame. The fact that women do not realize that the organizations are putting them at a disadvantage, serves to perpetuate the situation, as organizations are not forced to change their structure. This is therefore, an area that most feminists must focus on, in order to achieve a breach of the imaginary glass ceiling that women seem to have also put on themselves, in addition to those that organizations and society have put.
The findings by Cohen and Huffman (2007), that promotion of female managers, more so to positions of high status serves to reduce the gender wage gap, seemingly suggests that women in high status positions are relatively few. Furthermore, is also seems to reaffirm the belief that the problem is seemingly inherent, as most women are yet to be convinced that they are capable of competing against men at the same level. Seeing one of their own in a position of high status or of management, one could argue, gives them a sense of belief, sufficient to propel them towards achievement.
All in all, the gender wage gap that currently exists, as well as the disadvantaged position that women find themselves in, is as a result of both organizational structures that put women at a disadvantage, as well as poor attitudes and conceptions of self worth and ability by women. Key to addressing these challenges would therefore, not only be structural changes, but also the targeting of attitudinal changes on the part of women to enhance self belief as well as the sense of self worth and ability.
Acker, J. (1990). Heirarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations. Gender and Society 4(2), 139-158.
Cohen, P., & Huffman, M. (2007). Working for the Woman? Female Managers and the Gender Wage Gap. American Sociological Review 72, 681-704.
Webber, G., & Williams, C. (2008). Mothers in “Good” and “Bad” Part-time Jobs Different Problems, Same Results. Gender and Society, 22(6), 752-777.